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People in the Thornton Lab

Joe Thornton
Associate Professor
email
541-346-0328
webpage

Joe is the PI of the lab, an Associate Professor in the Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UO, and an Early Career Scientist of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He has been working on nuclear receptor evolution since his thesis work at the American Museum of Natural History and his postdoctoral work at Columbia University. Before that he was the research coordinator for Greenpeace’s U.S. and international toxics campaigns; he became interested in receptor evolution while working on endocrine disruption by pesticides and other synthetic chemicals. In addition to doing science, he still writes, lectures, and advises environmental organizations on chemical pollution and health. Joe was an undergraduate English major and didn't take a biology course until he was 30.

 

Jamie Bridgham
Research scientist
email
541-346-1537

Jamie, a former NIH/NRSA fellow, is working on the evolution of glucocorticoid/ mineralocorticoid receptor specificity and on the evolution of receptor specificity for target genes, but she has a hand in most of the lab's molecular projects in one way or another. Jamie completed her Ph.D. at Notre Dame, working with Alan Johnson on the function and evolution of death receptors involved in apoptosis.

 

Geeta Eick
Postdoc
email
541-346-1537

Geeta is resurrecting ancestral steroid receptors to understand the evolution of androgen, progestin, and corticosteroid sensitivity in early receptor lineages. She studied biochemistry, phylogenetics, and evolution at the University of Stellenbosch and the University of Cape Town and then was trained in molecular biology at the Yale School of Medicine before coming to the UO in early 2007.

 

Mike Harms
Postdoc till 9/2013, then
Assistant Prof., Univ. of Oregon
email
website
541-346-1537

Mike is a biophysicist who will begin an appointment as an Assistant Professor in the Chemistry Department and Institute of Molecular Biology at the University of Oregon in September, 2013. did his graduate work at Johns Hopkins with Bertrand Garcia-Moreno. Mike's postdoctoral work in the Thornton lab addressed how the biophysical properties of proteins affect evolutionary processes and to reveal why proteins have the properties they do. Mike is currently studying the biophysics of permissive mutations.

 

June Keay
Grad student
email
541-346-1537
June is a graduate student in the Biology Department and an NSF research fellow. June is studying the estrogen and related receptors of protostomes, including mollusks and annelids. How June took this fabulously artsy self-portrait we will never know.
Victor Hanson-Smith
Grad student
email
541-346-1537
Victor Hanson-Smith is a graduate student in Computer and Information Science (coadvised by John Conery) and an NSF IGERT fellow. Victor is studying the behavior of algorithms for ancestral sequence reconstruction and phylogenetic inference. Victor completed a master's degree in computer science at the UO and was an undergraduate at Seattle University, where he majored in computer science with minors in physics, piano composition, and philosophy.
Paul Cziko
Grad student
email
541-346-1537
Paul Cziko is a graduate student studying protein evolution in extreme temperature environments. Paul was an undergraduate and then a research assistant at the University of Illinois, where he studied antifreeze proteins in Antarctic notothenoid fishes. Paul came to Oregon to continue his study of the mechanistic basis for organismal adaptation to the environment. Paul is an NSF Graduate Research Fellow. In his spare time, he enjoys scuba diving under in sub-freezing ocean water under a 20-foot thick layer of surface ice.
Dave Anderson
Grad student
email
541-346-1537
Dave is a graduate student studying the diversification of non-steroid nuclear receptors. Dave was an undergraduate at the University of Toronto and then completed a master's degree in evolutionary genetics with Ben Evans at McMaster University. Dave, who was recently awarded a prestigious Doctoral Scholarship by Canada's National Sciences and Engineering Research Council, is the strongest man in Oregon.
Luke Webb
Undergrad

541-346-1537
Luke Webb is an undergradudate research assistant. A biology major, Luke joined the lab in May 2009 and has rapidly become expert in protein expression and purification, DNA manipulation, and yeast genetics. His career goals include continuing scientific research and becoming a rock star.

LAB ALUMNI
Bryan Kolaczkowski
Postdoc
Now: postdoc, Andy Kern lab, Dartmouth
email

Bryan is a computer scientist and phylogeneticist. He was a graduate student in the lab and stayed on as a postdoc to complete several projects. Bryan studied the effect of evolutionary heterogeneity on current phylogenetic methods and developing new mixed-model techniques that are more accurate when the evolutionary process varies among lineages and sites. He has also done some beautiful work on the behavior of Bayesian phylogenetic methods. Bryan is now a postdoc in Andy Kern's lab at Dartmouth, where he is combining phylogenetic and population genetic approaches to the computational study of evolution. A former member of UO's IGERT training program in Evolution, Development, and Genomics, Bryan continues to drink copious amounts of very exotic tea.

 

Jennifer Fox
Postdoc
Now: cell biologist, OTRADI

Jennifer was an NIH/NRSA fellow in the lab from 2004 to 2007. She is now chief cell biologist at the Oregon Translational Research and Development Institute. When she was in the lab, Jennifer established an experimental evolution system in yeast to study how receptors evolve affinity for new ligands. Before joining us, Jennifer did her Ph.D. with John McLachlan at Tulane, where she discovered that endocrine disrupters in the environment can interfere with the symbiosis of plants and nitrogen-fixing rhizobacteria and was a postdoc with Craig Jordan at Northwestern, where she worked on ligand- and tissue-specific coactivators for the estrogen receptor.

 

Sean Carroll
Grad student
Now: Postdoc, Chris Marx lab, Harvard

Sean was a graduate student in the Biology Department and an NSF IGERT fellow. Sean studied early glucocorticoid receptor evolution. He graduated in August 2009 and is now a postdoc with Chris Marx at Harvard, where he is using experimental evolutionary approaches in bacteria to study molecular adaptation. Sean is a very good frisbee player who occasionally has life-threatening bike accidents.

 

Justine Brown
Undergrad researcher
Now: PhD student, Univ. of Washington
Justine Brown was an undergraduate research assistant in the lab from 2006-2008. Justine studied the evolution of steroid hormone receptors in cephalochordates following a crucial gene duplication. While in the lab, Justine won the UO Undergraduate Research Fellowship, and her Biology honors thesis work was published in PLOS Genetics. Justine's goal is to apply evolutionary, molecular, and epidemiological approaches to address the AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa. She is now a doctoral student in the Pathobiology Program at the University of Washington.
John St. John
Undergrad researcher
Now: PhD student, UC Santa Cruz
John St. John was an undergraduate research assistant in the lab from 2007-2009. John used his programming abilities to study the accuracy of methods for selecting models for phylogenetic analysis. John completed an honors thesis in computer science and is now a doctoral student the Bioengineering Program at UC Santa Cruz.
Jesse Zaneveld
Undergrad researcher
Now: Grad student,
University of Colorado
Molecular/Cell Biology

Jesse's Biology Honors thesis was a phylogenetic and structural analysis of the evolution of ligand-binding in the entire nuclear receptor superfamily. Jesse found that, contrary to current wisdom, the ancestral receptor was almost certainly liganded, and so-called "orphan receptors," which are not regulated by hormones and other ligands, are evolutionary novelties. Jesse is now a graduate student in the MCB program at U. Colorado.

 

Molly Klein-McDowell
Undergrad researcher
Now: Graduate student,
San Francisco State University
As a UO undergraduate, Molly isolated, cloned, and sequenced steroid receptors from basal chordates, including skate and lancelet. Molly is now a Master's student in biology with Sarah Cohen at SFSU, where she is working on the evolutionary response of fish populations to chemical contamination.
Elle Need
Research assistant
Now: postdoc,
University of Adelaide,
Australia
Elle was a research assistant in the lab for two years, during which time she characterized the functions of the Aplysia estrogen receptor -- the first invertebrate steroid receptor discovered -- and of the resurrected ancestral steroid receptor, which existed > 600 million years ago. She returned to Australia, completed an MD/PhD, and is now working as a postdoc on the role of the androgen receptor in reproductive cancers.
Anne Belusko
Undergrad researcher
NOW: In dental school,
Oregon Health Sciences University.
Anne was an undergraduate at the UO. She came to the lab because she was interested in endocrine disruption and public health. Anne worked on isolating steroid receptors from invertebrates. She is now in dental school at OHSU.